When Hombre goes eventing he’s going to need to trust his rider and not be afraid of new things. This can be helped tremendously if I can find different things to present to him at home. I read about a trail class that had an obstacle of empty water bottles which the horses had to walk through. Now THAT sounded GREAT! Friends helped prepare our obstacle by bringing empty bottles. It took a week or so to round enough up to make an “impression.”
While gathering the bottles I pondered the upcoming experiment. I decided to present the challenge at liberty with any bystanders safely out of the way. I really didn’t know what the horses would do. To me all those bottles were not something they’d run into in their normal day to day activities. Early on when I had half dozen bottles I did show them to Zelador. He sniffed them and instead of walking on them he deftly negotiated his way in between them. They were on the arena floor and there were no treats in amongst the bottles.
Finally the big day arrived. I’d collected many drinking bottles.
Yesterday I put out a tarp and placed all 30 empty/topless plastic water bottles on it. I brought Dora to the arena, tossed some small bits of carrots amongst the bottles and turned her loose. I stepped AWAY from the tarp just in case she zigged or zagged into me. Within a few seconds she stepped on one bottle, spun and left the tarp. She quickly regrouped (the many bits of carrots weighed heavy on her mind) and she returned to the tarp. She commenced stepping on bottles and moving bottles out of the way with her nose to get at the carrots. Boring!
The next horse was Hombre. He didn’t SNORT when he saw the tarp, bottles and carrots, but he didn’t walk onto the tarp, either. I walked all over the tarp, stepped on bottles, making them pop and squeak. Hombre observed all of this and still kept all four feet on the arena floor. The good news is he didn’t lose his mind. The not so encouraging news is he never stepped on the tarp.
Twenty-four hours later Hombre met the tarp, bottles and carrots, again. This time there were two tarps to contend with. Hombre was able to place one hoof and the toe of the other front hoof onto the tarp. I fetched his dinner and placed it on a third tarp. I mentioned to his owner, Amanda, that when working/playing with Hombre PATIENCE was very important. If you were on a schedule, nothing good would happen. I’m not sure how long it took Hombre to place both front feet on the tarp and calmly munch on his dinner, but it took tons longer than anyone would have expected. What I liked about the whole outing was he never lost it, snorted, bolted, etc. He remained calm and figured out that he could trust us and that he was safe when his feet were on the tarp.
The next horse was Angel. And, once again, she lived up to her name. There were three tarps with dozens of empty water bottles on them and bits of carrots all over the tarps. She walked onto the tarp, pushed a bottle out of the way with her nose, ate a carrot, moved forward to another carrot and stepped on a few empty bottles in the process. What a girl!
Amanda said, “I like that horse. If she were a bit taller that’s the horse I’d event on.”
A quick history of Angel. A friend of mine who has one of our Vizslas, Lily, wants to learn how to ride. I asked our riding coach, Alex, if he knew of a REALLY SAFE, not very tall horse that would be SAFE for a beginner who’s not as old as me, but still not a spring chicken. (As you can see, there’s a heavy emphasis on SAFE!!!) Alex found Angel, a 14.2hh pony, 18 years old who’d been a school horse all her life to lease. She was retired last autumn and happily came out of retirement to help yet another beginner.